WASHINGTON-A federal appeals court here Friday told the Federal Communications Commission to re-evaluate its decision on pay-phone compensation but left in place rules that require pay-phone operators to be paid 28.4 cents for each toll-free call placed from a pay phone.
Many paging companies offer toll-free numbers to their subscribers. These companies would prefer that people placing the toll-free calls from a pay phone to page a subscriber pay by inserting coins into the phone. Pay-phone users can avoid inserting coins today by dialing a toll-free number.
The Personal Communications Industry Association was satisfied with the decision but said “a lot of work still needed to be done” to educate the new FCC commissioners on the “caller pays mechanism” option, said Rob Hoggarth, a top PCIA official. The caller-pays option is “preferable to the complicated scheme” developed by the FCC where the end user pays for all toll-free calls. Using this scheme, paging companies are required to compensate pay-phone owners, Hoggarth said.
The court’s decision involves 1996 FCC rules to have end users compensate pay-phone operators 35 cents for calls made without using coins.
The same court last year told the FCC to re-evaluate the 35-cent charge and base the compensation amount on market forces. The FCC reset the compensation amount to 28.4 cents in October. Several parties, including PCIA, disputed the market-rate calculation.
Friday’s decision keeps in place the current rules but orders the commission to at least defend to the court its market-rate calculation within six months.
Rather than simply defending its rate calculation, PCIA hopes the commission will choose to scrap the entire system and start over, said PCIA President Jay Kitchen in a statement.